Digital Nomads and the Future of Work

Over 50 million Americans are currently doing freelance work, meaning more and more people are becoming location independent in their work.

After we have seen some backlash to the “homeworking” arrangement with companies like Redditt and Yahoo withdrawing all home-working arrangements they had sat up, location independence is again on the rise but in a different format. Through coworking spaces.

The trend of digital nomads

Digital nomads are no longer just travel bloggers, graphic designers and independent programmers or app developers, but a wider variety of professions. The biggest change in the trend is that corporations are beginning to bite, not only in hiring freelancers as contractors, but also in accepting their own employees not being at their own headquarters or office facilities, but rather located in coworking spaces that can be located anywhere.

There are multiple arguments for why corporations should consider that. The most obvious reason is cost. If you think about office space in the world today, it is abundant, and very poorly utilised. Half of the day office spaces are completely empty (during night time), and more often than not half of the headquarter’s office spaces are empty during the day as employees are out with clients or in the field.

If a corporation can replace a considerable number of their expensive inner city headquarter desks with rented desks at remote coworking spaces it all of a sudden becomes quite attractive.

The efficiency increases as the employee is not stuck in traffic (which in itself improves if everyone stops going into the downtown office at the same time every morning), and time wasted on meetings is likely to drastically decrease. Not that all meetings are a waste of time, but if an employee comes into the head office once a week, or only participates in teleconferences at certain times, the time used on meetings is likely to be focused only on more urgent topics and be more efficient.

Co-working in Copenhagen

In downtown Copenhagen there is a new facility called Bloxhub. This is a coworking space and a showcase for Copenhagen on the leading companies within sustainable urban development, a field Copenhagen has made one of it’s trademarks.

Not only does the coworking space house independent consultant and small design companies, but also satellite divisions of some of the largest, leading architectural and engineering firms in Denmark.

The reason they choose to locate there is not just to be part of the showcase, or “jumping on the trend”, but because they see a direct value in the mingle, in the dynamics. One of the biggest assets of many coworking spaces is the interaction between people and ideas that happens there. This is particularly important when it comes to innovation, product development and business development.

The coworking space solves important challenges

When you are locked up within your company everyone around is part of the same corporate culture, and

therefor bound to share similar thought approaches and perspectives on the industry. Within a coworking space you meet a different set of ideas and perspectives that can fundamentally improve your corporation’s understanding of some of the needs, trends and thought processes that are taking place elsewhere in the market. This is likely to spark and inspire further innovation and product development and increase the changes of the success of the same.

The success of a project comes down to the team that is put on the task. Finding the right talents and expertise for the task at hand is what matters. Increasingly teams consist of players located in different locations around the world that come together through skype, zoom or other digital tools to solve their challenges.

While these team players very often are located in the different regional offices of the corporations it actually doesn’t have to be. They can in reality be located anywhere, such as a remote coworking space.

The coworking space solves two important challenges to remote working, one is the “instability” of the home office, and the second is heaving to lease an office, set up a phone line and an internet connection and buy furniture. All of that is taken care of, sometimes even including a manned reception.

The financial investment and risk of the company is therefor non-existing while all the benefits of a remote “regional office” are included. You even have coworkers, although they just work for different companies (which can open up new opportunities for both you and the company, remember).

Finally, it means the company can have you on a payroll without having to supply you with a desk and computer at the headquarters, which often is more expensive than your spot at the coworking space.

There are even entire companies that only exist in the cloud. A network of professionals located in coworking spaces in different locations around the world and yet have a unified front and brand and work together as a team. There is nothing that says your job couldn’t be set up in the same way.

Post by Hjörtur Smárason. Hjörtur Smárason is a travel addict, story teller and brand specialist. Hjortur is  the Founder of Scope Communications and co-founder of Phønix, the international place branding panel. Hjörtur has worked with clients in over 20 countries all over the world on storytelling, place branding and innovation and is a popular speaker on the subject.

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